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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

ALEXANDER  YO^  HUMBOUDT.                189
boldt, according to Ms own and Ms contemporaries'
researches, does not consider as completed, "but as still
continuing.    As there are yet portions of the earth's
surface which lie below the level of the ocean,—for
instance, the Caspian Sea,* the Dead Sea7 the former
625, the latter 1230 feet below the level of the Medi-
terranean,—so whole territories rise still, though per-
haps scarcely perceptibly in the course of a human
life.    Thus the eastern shore of Scandinavia has risen
320 feet during 8000 years ; and Humboldt calculates
that in 12,000 years, those portions of the sea near the
shore, which are now covered by fifty fathoms of water,
will be raised to the surface and become dry land.
Thus tTae growth of the continent is proved!    But if,
on the one side, land is rising above the sea, one may
also imagine  a gradual  sinking on  the other; and
Humboldt plainly foresees that  some north-western
portions of Europe, by the gradual depression of the
surface, will sink below the water level and become
sea.    There is an absence of any proof for a real in-
crease or decrease of the ocean, although in former
ages the level of the sea was undoubtedly a widely
different one to the present.
Over the mountains and the plains, and over the
unstable surface of tlie ocean, lies the earth-surround-
ing sea of air, to which the oceanic waters refuse to
Impart their warmth, as the refrigerated particles of
water become heavier, and fall into the warmer depth.
IBut as the air ocean has its wind currents, wMch re-
turn according to regular laws (which Dowe especially
has investigated), so there are also oceanic currents,
which Humboldt has made the subject of interesting
researches. Besides the well-known phenomena of
ebb and tide, the movement of the waves in obedience
to prevailing winds, and periodical air pressure, there
* Humboldt remarks that the periodical, irregular rising and falling
of the waters in the Caspian Sea, seems to be a proof that the soil is
yet capable of making weak oscillations, even without earthquakes,
which must have been more universal at the period when the earth's*
crust was less thick.